Of Ears and Secrets
The water in the spring was warm. Steam rose from it, wafting up in little foggy tendrils in the cool evening air. It smelled of minerals, but not in an unpleasant way, Kagome thought as she let her kosode drop off of her shoulders and left it and her towel at the edge of the spring.
"Ah, comfort," she said as stepped through the water, sinking into it.
The spring was on the outskirts of a now forgotten shrine but the serenity of the site spoke of how the people might have left, but the kami of the place had not. The spring was no doubt one of the reasons the shrine was in this place, and long generations had sought out its waters. The grounds at one time had been groomed and trees planted both for privacy and for shelter, and the banks had been set with a border of stones. Above the water where she was heading was a large old tree whose branches overhung the edge of the spring and occasionally dropped leaves on the surface of the water.
It was very calm and very quiet.
Leaning on a rock, Kagome closed her eyes and let the warm waters soothe her body, tired after a long day of traveling. This was not the first time she had been here. They had discovered it on one of their trips back to Kaede's village, and now it was one of their regular stops on their visits between the old village and the new village she now called home. She was always thankful for the pause before they pushed on to get back home.
She let the peace and quiet lull her; she needed it, because she was tired of being on the road. They had had a good visit with the old miko and the villagers who still thought of her fondly, but she was ready to go home. She missed her son and her own house, her own bed and her own kitchen. For a few minutes, the warm waters let her drop all these irritations and just relax.
There was a swish in the water as her husband made his way towards her, moving through water that came up to his thighs. Even in water, he could move with almost no sound. Almost, but not quite. She opened her eyes as he moved towards her, his golden skin warm in the late afternoon light. He gave her a quirky smile and flicked one triangular ear. Kagome, suddenly curious at the look he gave her, smiled at him in return.
"What took you so long?" she asked. "I’ve been here awhile already. I probably ought to get out soon."
"Oh, things," InuYasha replied. "You can get out if you want. I won't be too long."
She looked at him questioningly, which he ignored. Instead, he settled down next to her, his long silver hair floating in the water around him, and sighed in pleasure as he got comfortable, closing his eyes. Kagome reached out and picked up one of the silver locks of his hair floating there, and wrapped it around her finger.
"You did that on purpose," she said.
"Did what?" he asked, stretching out his legs and rotating his left foot.
"Got here late, and said something like that, knowing it would make me want to know what you're up to."
He turned slightly, opened one amber eye, and looked at her placidly, even as his right ear twitched again. He reached out and wrapped an arm around her. "What makes you think I'm up to something?"
“Your ear is twitching,” she replied. “It only does that if you’re upset, or nervous, or trying to hide something.”
He cupped a hand over the traitorous triangle of his ear, snorted, then leaned back into the water, wetting the top of his head. “You think you know everything?” he said, smirking. “Well, you’ll have to get out to find out. I’m not saying anything.”
Kagome sat up. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to go see for myself.”
He grabbed her hand. “Wait a minute. I wanna see.” Then he ducked his head fully under the water.
She took a deep breath and watched as he finished his bathing, torn between the enjoyment she normally got out of watching him dripping with water, and her curiosity about what he had done, but she managed to wait patiently while he finished. Finally he stood up.
“Ready?” he asked, reaching out his hand to her.
She smiled and took it. “Long as you make sure I’m far enough away before you shake your hair out.”
He laughed, and together they walked to the edge of the spring. They dried each other off, until InuYasha threatened to wet Kagome as he shook his hair dry and she ran off giggling. Dressed only in his kosode, he shook his hair out, then grabbed his jacket and hakama and sword and hurried after her.
Getting back to the campsite, he found Kagome kneeling by their bedroll, looking at a lily he had placed there carefully before heading to the spring. She picked it up, ran the flower against the side of her face, then looked up at him.
“So this is what took you so long?” she asked.
“Partly. There’s something else there,” he replied, sitting down beside her. He folded his clothes as he watched her pick up the package that the flower had rested on. It was a small bundle wrapped in a brightly flowered piece of fabric. “Gonna open it?”
She turned the bundle over in her hands, and found the tie that closed it. Slowly she unfastened it. “Where - ”
“Just open it. I’ll tell you about it after you’re done,” he said. His right ear, ever the betrayer, twitched as he watched her.
She pulled the wrapping open to reveal pale blue cloth. The cloth was a lovely silk, and shimmered as she unfolded it to reveal the garment, a lovely blue robe embroidered with sakura blossoms in palest pink. “It’s beautiful,” she said, looking up at him. “But where did you get it, and how long have you been carrying it?”
“One of the women back at the old village, Natsuki, remember her?” InuYasha asked, carefully brushing the soft silk with the back of one of his knuckles.
“I remember her,” Kagome said. “I helped one of her daughters get over a nasty infection in her leg.”
“Yeah, well the daughter got married this summer, and Natsuki had her work on this robe ever since she was well enough to get back to her normal life. She wanted you to have it.”
“You’re sneaky, husband. You know I’d have never accepted anything like this.” She looked up at InuYasha, her face caught somewhere between frowning and smiling, as if she couldn’t decide which to do.
“I know. So did Kaede and Natsuki. They worked out the deal, and told me I had to do it.”
She looked at the dress again. “It is lovely. So Natsuki’s daughter did the work?”
“That’s what they told me,” he said. He touched one of the blossoms. “She’s good, almost as good as you are with a needle.” He picked up her hand.
“But why give it to me now?” Kagome asked.
“This place, I think. It’s such a special place. And I’m here in this special place with my special woman. It just felt right.”
“It wouldn’t have to do with the fact you had to be carrying it in your jacket and you were afraid I’d find out or you’d get it dirty, now would it?”
He smiled at her sheepishly. “Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right place to do it.” He lifted up his hand, cupped the side of her face, and kissed her softly.
“It’s lovely, and I appreciate it,” she said, folding it back and retying the cloth, putting it into her basket. “But maybe I like the lily, better.” She picked the flower up, and ran a finger gently down one petal.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you chose it for me.” She put the flower back down, and reached up and wrapped her arms around her neck, and kissed him, a much longer and more thorough kiss than the one he had given her.
It was a while before they thought of flower or robe again.